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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Love Hate Hate | Jakarta | Indonesia

So... onto Jakarta...


Jakarta and I have a love/hate relationship.

Not really.

Maybe.


I say that because I DID put my best foot forward to try and like it... even love it... but I ultimately ended up having genuinely strong feelings on the opposite end of the spectrum.


I don't know what I expected.

Yes, I knew.

That's a lie.

I knew exactly what I was getting myself into.


For some reason... and for years & years, I have always felt a certain hostility towards Jakarta. It had been ingrained into me as one of those places I needed to avoid.


A concrete jungle to skip.


But... when one is travelling, plans change, ideas change and often we find ourselves in contrasting territory. Due to transit logistics and various contrasting circumstances, I found myself heading to Jakarta.


Twice.


Not only did I purchase a flight to Jakarta once, but I was lucky enough to do it TWICE.

I must have really wanted to go, eh?


I was still LIVID about the situation with Batik Airlines and their refusal to acknowledge my recent travel predicament. Because I had been unable to reach Flores ~ due to the Indonesian government shutting down all boats ~ I therefore missed my flight from Flores to Jakarta. In addition to losing out on approximately $200, I had to book another flight from Lombok to Jakarta to follow through with all the other non-refundable plans I'd made. When given the options of flights to take, I opted out of the earlier and cheaper flight in favour of the more expensive one, just to avoid ever giving another cent of my hard-earned money to Batik.


Their customer service was appalling.


And back to Jakarta...


The truth is that I Googled "Is it worth it to go to Jakarta?"... and this was my search result.


Jakarta is absolutely worth visiting! I felt like my time spent in Jakarta was the most authentic experience of my whole trip. There is something magical in witnessing life unfold in another land with another culture that pays no mind to you. I'd include a couple of days in Jakarta in any Indonesian itinerary.


Of course, I have no idea who wrote that, nor do I know the circumstances under which they visited Jakarta... but for some reason, it managed to influence me...


I realize that I should not be consulting Google regarding my travel arrangements, but when the Indonesian government and atrocious weather intervene with your well-planned itinerary, desperate times call for desperate measures.


Ugh.


My original flight to Jakarta was March 20th.,.. and my replacement became March 19th.


I had booked the Verse Luxe hotel for two nights. It looked nice, economical, central, and laid back. That was everything I sought out when seeking accommodation. As I was arriving a day earlier, I booked one more night and congratulated myself on a great find.


I do a lot of my travel bookings through booking.com and it normally works out quite well. Sometimes I get good.

Sometimes I get bad.


Is it a crap shoot? Not normally.

The good usually outweighs the bad.



Despite my recent annoyance with everyone and everything... I did have to laugh when I was checking in for my Jakarta flight.


I have a little pouch/purse for my passport. It was made by a very good friend and I have cherished it ever since she gifted it to me. It accompanies me on each of my trips and I have come to think of it as a bit of a lucky charm... despite my frequent blunders!


Most people know that I suffer from occasional knee pain... and I have a backup stash of painkillers available should either of them happen to flare up. I tend to hide pills in secret sections of each of my bags, just so that should I need to pop a pill, I have one at the ready. One of these secret spots is my passport pouch. It's been there for a while, as I haven't encountered an agonizing occasion to 'pop' it... thankfully.


I've been travelling for almost five months now... which means my passport has come out of its pouch on numerous occasions. Hotels, flights, customs, security, moped rentals... and the list goes on.


Each time the passport comes out... the passport has to go back in.

Each time the passport goes in, the pill gets hit.

Each time the pill gets hit, it crumbles... little teeny tiny bits at a time... but it crumbles.


I kept meaning to take it out... but as soon as the thought would enter my mind, it would leave my mind... and the disintegration accelerated.

You can imagine my horror at check-in when I pulled out my passport only to discover it was completely carpeted in white powder... My crumbled pill was all over my documents... and now all over the check-in desk. All I could think was, "I'm going to jail."


I really must pay more attention to detail...


Seriously.


I have recently reached Level 3 with Booking.com which is the Genius level.

Maybe not too recently. Last year? The year before?

I can't remember.

Very posh, yes. I know...


At present, it is the highest level you can reach and offers a lot of discounts and travel rewards. When I booked my Jakarta hotel, I was offered a steal of a deal on an airport taxi, so I took full advantage of the price. Normally I don't pre-book taxis. I think I can count the amount of times I have booked transportation on two fingers. Maybe one.


International airports the world over are notorious for taxis. Almost synonymous. Usually, you walk out of the arrivals lounge and there they are, a full line of taxi drivers just waiting to harass you, cart you around and rip you off. Having transportation booked in advance eliminated the hassle... and I liked that. I liked that.

Before my flight, I had to provide all of my flight details, which I did, diligently.

Flight arrival: 3:45 pm

Airline: Garuda Indonesia

Flight GW433


This was going to be cool...



Like most social-media-obsessed passengers, I flipped my phone from Airplane mode to fully functioning as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac.


DING! ... A message...


Curious... I opened it up. It was a text from my taxi driver, letting me know that he was there.

Perfect.


I sent back a message telling him that the plane had just landed. Please note that the current time, at the time, was 3:40 pm... five minutes before the estimated arrival time I'd passed on to my booking.


The next text that came in almost put me over the edge.

He wrote, in very broken English, that he'd already been waiting for half an hour and for me to make sure I didn't exceed the one-hour allotted time slot.


Excuse me?

Current time: 3;46 pm.


According to the information I provided while booking, he should have arrived at the airport exactly 1 minute ago... had he seriously expected me to be in the arrivals lounge at the exact time of landing? Who arrives at an airport EARLY?


N.O.B.O.D.Y.

It's a preposterous thing to do.

One hour allotted time slot?

Was he high?


Was I supposed to knock everyone off the plane, grab my luggage from below and sprint down the runway to reach him so that he didn’t leave?


No.


It shouldn't have pissed me off so much, but it did. I was only in Jakarta for 5 minutes and already I was annoyed. This wasn't going to be good... I could sense it.


The next text I received was from the Verse Luxe, my Jakarta hotel. They wanted to know why I hadn't arrived yet and if they should give away my hotel room.


GIVE IT AWAY?

Current time: 3;49 pm.

Seriously?


I kept my composure and replied kindly, asking them to not give my room away. I was on my way... maybe... if I was able to disembark, collect my luggage and reach my taxi within my absurd allotted time frame.


What was going on?

I felt like I was in some kind of parallel universe.


Anyway... all in all, I evaded detainment, an invasive body check and drug screening. I made it off the plane, picked up my luggage and met my driver before he had a chance to abandon me at the airport. I got to my hotel before they gave my room away.


Win.✔️ Win.✔️ Win.✔️.


I checked into my room... and because I had two separate reservations, (due to my extra night) they made me pay upfront for one night... and told me to come back in the morning to pay for the additional nights. Bizarre, but ok. Probably would have been more convenient to get full payment over and done with right off the bat...


**BUT... I'm going to leave the 'hotel' part of the story for my next blog. Do NOT miss it... as "Mattress-Gate" is sure to be a doozie.

You know those moments in life when you’re getting frustrated with everything and you know you just need to go on a vacation?


The opposite happens too.


There are moments during my travels when I just want to pack it all in and go home. It's not often, but occasionally I long for a steadfast environment, familiarity and the comforts of home.

I just wasn't in the best frame of mind. I'd had enough and my teeter was tottering. There are always those tedious moments when you get tired of fighting with Google Maps… and tired of haggling with taxi drivers… and tired of being harassed to buy a necklace while you’re trying to have dinner... and tired of hauling around a heavy bag... errrrrr....

Jakarta was my breaking point, like it or not.


Anyway...


On my first day there, I had some errands to run. I wanted to find an Optical shop and see if I could get my glasses fixed and I needed a Post Office to rid myself of a few unwanted pounds. The Optical shop was simple to find, as there were dozens of them scattered throughout the city. The Post Office, not so easy.


Google Maps told a different story, and had me walking up and down back alleys, through malls, into parking lots... all to find a post office that either was non-existent, closed or just sold postcards. It was beyond frustrating... and frustration didn't bode well with my current mood. Not at all. It was disastrous. Jakarta and Google Maps need to sit down and iron some shit out.


Finally... after about 4 or 5 "Pos Indonesia" setbacks, I was ready to throw the contents of my burdensome package into the river. I did stop to ask several people, but no one seemed to understand the concept of a post office. I managed to get through to someone when I typed in “I must send this package to Canada” to my translation app and simultaneously pointed at the full bag I was carting around. After all the confusion was cleared up, a kind taxi driver delivered me to the main city centre Post Office of Jakarta.


I NEVER would have found it. Ever.


I was directed to the left-hand side of the building and an orange desk, with a toothless, little man sitting behind it. I approached him confidently, overwhelmed I'd finally reached the Post Office. I smiled, motioned to my bag and told him I needed to send a package to Canada.


My day was looking UP! Things were getting better.


He smiled his toothless grin back at me and asked, “Air or boat?” to which I replied, "Boat."

I’m too poor for air. Suddenly he changed his mind and was whistling a different tune.

"No boat to Canada."


What?

He told me no one sent anything by sea to Canada.

You’re joking?

No.

Why?

No boat go.

No boats go to Canada?


The day plummeted again.



We went back & forth and back & forth.

He insisted that no boats went from Southeast Asia to Canada with packages.

He told me Indonesia stopped sending sea packages because they couldn't find a route to Canada.


Everything he said, I had a rebuttal.

Yes, boats did go from Southeast Asia to Canada. I have sent MANY packages up until now.

No route? I opened my Google Maps and showed him a route to Canada.


The most outrageous thing about it all was that I could send a package by SEA to the USA.


I was going postal.


I eventually had to agree to the astronomical price of Airmail and I ended up switching to a smaller box with fewer items. When I still couldn't afford it with the rupiah I had in my bag, I had to hit the nearest ATM to withdraw funds, as they didn't accept credit cards.

Each item I put into the box was inventoried by the man and his supervisor, which ended up taking well over an hour as they eyed up each item, evaluating its cost and entering the description and the value into an online form on their outdated computer. They didn't even care about the Indonesian rupiah or the Canadian dollar... they only wanted the value in American currency.


1 shirt… $3.

2 pieces of cloth… $4 each.

1 Christmas ordament... $2


I kept telling them that the entire box was worth less than $20 US but they insisted on itemizing it all... for customs. My eyes were rolling. I couldn't control them. My head was about to explode.

This moment will surely make my top 10 for the most aggravating moments I've ever had to suffer through.

And they knew it.

I’m positive this box will never arrive.

They probably took it out back and burnt it as soon as I walked out the front door.


What a day. What a week.


So what does one do?

Sign up for a Jakarta food tour.


I had originally signed up for one that concentrated mostly on Indonesian spices, but when the guide started texting me at 2 am to ask me silly questions, it pushed me beyond my boundaries of tolerance and I cancelled that tour immediately.

Could it get worse?


I'm glad I cancelled with that clown because the next food tour I did follow through with was with a young girl named Kenya. She was born in Kenya and grew up travelling the world with her parents, who worked for the Indonesian embassy.


We strolled through the streets of Jakarta, tasting Soto Betawi soup, Nasi Goreng, Tahu Campur, different styles of herbal drinks and assorted Indonesian treats.


What do I think of Jakarta now?


It's tough. I tried... but I'm just not a fan. It's not that I felt unsafe. It's not that the people weren't friendly. Maybe it was just my demeanour right there and then. The food tour helped. It really did... but... would I come back? NO.


Is it bad to say that?


**Stay tuned for Mattress-Gate... my decision might make much more sense after you read it.




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